Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon thinks baseball fans, particularly those that use Sabermetrics, don’t give him enough credit, Clark Spencer writes for the Miami Herald. “In the baseball world, I [stink]. It’s the truth. It’s seriously the truth,” Gordon said. He went on, “It’s a fluke. No one thinks I play baseball good. These last two years, in baseball minds, it’s a fluke.”
While Gordon didn’t specifically mention Sabermetrics, Spencer paints Gordon’s quotes in that light. Spencer writes, “But Gordon knows he hasn’t satisfied the numbers crunchers — and might not ever.”
Sabermetrics actually value Gordon quite a lot. During the 2015 season, Gordon hit .333, accruing 205 hits total, with 58 stolen bases and 88 runs scored. Baseball Reference credited him at 4.9 Wins Above Replacement, just about three wins above an average player. FanGraphs put him at 4.6 WAR. Among qualified position players, only 25 players had compiled more WAR last season than Gordon.
Gordon said, “They don’t appreciate it because I don’t hit homers. But a guy who hits .240 and hits 15 homers is better than me.”
According to FanGraphs, there were only eight position players ahead of Gordon in WAR who hit fewer than 20 home runs during the 2015 season. There was just one player, Kevin Kiermaier, who had a batting average below .285. Kiermaier was arguably the best defensive player in the game last season. He is the only player who fits Gordon’s description. Even if he stretch a bit and look at players below Gordon in WAR, the next-closest candidate would be Kevin Pillar, who hit .278 with 12 home runs for the Blue Jays, but he stole 25 bases and also played superb defense. Russell Martin hit .240 with 23 home runs, but he’s a catcher who still does a good job behind the dish.
Gordon mentioned how projections call for him to regress, with Spencer citing “a .280 singles hitter with a low on-base percentage”. For what it’s worth, the projections listed on Baseball Reference call for a .304 batting average with 35 extra-base hits (compared to his 34 during the 2015 season). The Steamer projections, found at FanGraphs, expect a .285 average with 34 extra-base hits. ZiPS, also at FanGraphs, has him at .292 with 32 extra-base hits.
The National League average last year was .253, so .285 is still way above-average. It’s not like Steamer — the lowest of the projections — is calling him a bad hitter. Jose Altuve, a comparable player, led the league with a .341 batting average in 2014 and plummeted 28 points the next year. Buster Posey hit .336 in 2012 and dropped to .294 the year after. Jose Reyes led the league with a .337 average in 2011 and fell to .287 in 2012.
Maybe pitting himself against the rest of the world is how Gordon prepares himself, and that’s fine. But it’s based on a false premise, because if anyone values Gordon, it is the people who look beneath the surface stats.